Someone beside Shanta spoke out. "Third-class merits... They won't be approved even if we recommend it to the top."
"If it was someone else, it would probably be approved and the audit would not be too stringent. In the past, as long as we decided and recommend it, it would be approved, but Fang Zhao has too many people watching him," another person in the conference room said. "If it was a soldier stationed at the base, there would definitely be no issue. Being stationed at the outpost falls a little short. Of course, the most important thing is Fang Zhao's military service duration. He only just started, so it may be an obstacle."
"Third-class merits would probably be approved, but promotion? The possibility of this being approved is not high."
"Didn't he discover Baiji ore as well? That's a really huge service."
"That cannot be considered a meritorious deed."
Shanta, who had been silently listening to everyone discussing, knocked on the table and said, "I feel that if we recommend it, the possibility of it being approved is very high."
The others all kept quiet and waited for Shanta's analysis.
Shanta drummed his fingers on the table and said three words: "Exemplary model soldier."
Exemplary model soldier!
The others all understood when they heard this.
Indeed, the attitudes of the top were changing. In the past, they had never thought highly of the entertainment circle, but hadn't they rolled out Project Starlight this year for the purpose of letting idols and celebrities garner more attention?
Furthermore, the benefits arising from Project Starlight were very obvious. This time, there was a chance for an exemplary model soldier, from what Shanta saw, so the chances of approval were extremely high.
"Indeed, they need to find a benchmark. An example is something that words cannot compare with. In the past, so many publicity films were created, and everyone can see the result they achieved. Why else would the top-brass have launched Project Starlight?"
"If you think this way, it makes sense."
"This little fellow Fang Zhao has such good luck! This promotion is an exceptional case."
"But back to the topic, ever since the military service reform where they decreased the duration from two years to one, the only one who would have gotten promoted so quickly is Fang Zhao."
Fang Zhao did not know he was being discussed after having left the conference room, nor did he particularly care about meritorious deeds. Killing those beasts and shooting those terrorists had not been for the purpose of garnering meritorious deeds—it had just been instinct that had been carved into him during the Period of Destruction.
Returning to his dormitory, Fang Zhao once again picked up his little notebook and started composing. Matters had temporarily come to an end and he could feel at ease and arrange his thoughts and inspirations.
However, Fang Zhao could not compose for long. In the afternoon, Shanta came looking for him for a chat. Not on official affairs, but a private talk.
Shanta had looked for Fang Zhao to speak about two matters. The first was to inform Fang Zhao that the third-class meritorious deeds had been reported to the top and a promotion application had been submitted. The other matter was to inquire if Fang Zhao was familiar with anybody in Yanzhou's military district.
After this surprise attack, more troops would surely be sent to reinforce planet Baiji. This time, Shanta could not put it off. Every continent's military district would dispatch some people over. Since reinforcements were inevitable, Shanta definitely wanted to find parties he could collaborate with. There were no especially satisfying collaborating parties over in Yanzhou. As long as the other parties could satisfy certain conditions, anyone was fine, so Shanta use this pretext to ask Fang Zhao for a favor. As long as he did not have any adverse reactions to the person put forward by Fang Zhao, Shanta would just approve of it.
"I only know Major General Hong Lou over in Yanzhou's military district. We have collaborated in the past..." Fang Zhao told Shanta about Hong Lou, about how Hong Lou had given him some welfare during military training and had purchased one of Fang Zhao's movements for the military district's publicity film's BGM. Fang Zhao felt that Hong Lou was competent and was rather upright. Moreover there was Hong Lou's relationship with Duan Qianji. For an officer-ranked military personnel, Fang Zhao could only think of him.
"Hong Lou?" Shanta racked his brains for information about this person. He did not know much regarding Hong Lou, but there was no animosity, so he would check it out later. "Oh, right, other planets have asked for you a number of times already. They want to ask you to go over to their mining districts and take a look around. If you don't have any other plans, how about taking some time to go and visit," Shanta said.
When other planets of a similar grade to the planet Baiji of the past saw Baiji's development rate, they were also envious. Even if they had impetus from Project Starlight, how could it be compared to grade A power ore and their position on the development sequence?
Now, many places wanted Fang Zhao, but during his military service, if his base's highest-ranking officer did not agree, nobody could even dream about it. Borrowing was fine, but transferring over was absolutely out of the question. Shanta still felt that he should leave Fang Zhao here as insurance.
"Actually, they have already used the latest models of detection equipment to probe but did not discover anything. However, they aren't willing to give up and want to borrow your 'Diting ears'." When Shanta spoke about this, he seemed very pleased with himself for choosing to defend Baiji and not some other planet.
Fang Zhao nodded. "Sure." Going over was not necessarily a bad thing. He would surely be unable to avoid this. Even if he did not go now, in the future, those people would think up all sorts of methods to make him go over. Fang Zhao did not think his own ears were better than the newest models of detection equipment, but it would save a lot of trouble if he could make them admit defeat.
Shanta's actions were quick. After finishing his chat with Fang Zhao, he went to check on the Yanzhou military district's Hong Lou and got a few trusted aides to analyze this person. He felt that it was feasible, so he contacted the Yanzhou military district.
Hong Lou felt as if a weight had been taken off his mind when he found out that the Yanzhou military district would dispatch him to planet Baiji. Although his wife had told him that Fang Zhao would surely lend a hand, nobody had known if Shanta would actually believe that.
Now it seemed that that little fellow Fang Zhao was rather reliable!
Over at the Yanzhou military district, besides Hong Lou, there were many other people of the same rank and who were just as capable and had similar backings and connections. Planet Baiji's reply became the deciding factor.
When he received the notification from the top, Hong Lou excitedly called Duan Qianji. "Wifey, you were right, That little fella did good!"
Duan Qianji went blank for a bit but quickly responded when Hong Lou told her what had happened with a laugh. "Have the personnel been confirmed?"
"It's fixed, it's fixed! Let me make preparations and bring troops to planet Baiji!" Hong Lou's voice was filled with excitement that could not be suppressed.
After people from all twelve continents were sent over, there would be news of planet Baiji establishing a military district. The home planet's structure was already fixed, and these people with ambitions did not have much room for growth if they stayed here. However, heading out would grant them a wide area for development.
"Don't forget to assign a few more people to protect Fang Zhao," Duan Qianji reminded.
"Say no more! I will surely do so! I will definitely assign the elite!" Hong Lou guaranteed.
Every continent's military district was beginning to stir, but this did not affect Fang Zhao too much. He would only serve on Baiji for a year, as he would leave after that. However, he felt happy for planet Baiji. Shanta had shown him a set of development blueprints for Baiji. Once it was established, the housing district would be enlarged and there would be many more choices. Even if situations occurred, they would not be trapped on the planet and stuck in a desperate fight for survival. The living hell of the Period of Destruction would never happen again, and this made Fang Zhao feel gratified.
A week later, Fang Zhao, who was participating in the reconstruction of Outpost 23, was summoned to Shanta's office.
"There are too many things to handle, and special times call for special measures, so everything is being simplified. We won't be holding a commendation ceremony, so this is yours." Shanta handed over a case with the alliance's emblem on it.
Recently, Shanta had been busy dealing with parties from all the twelve continent's military districts. Fang Zhao could see that Shanta attached great importance to this and had specially taken the time to hand it over to him personally.
Fang Zhao opened the case. Lying inside was a golden third-class merits medal as well as an epaulet with the rank of second lieutenant. There was also a gun of the same model that Yan Biao and the others used.
"From now on, you have the lawful authority to possess a gun, but your previous one cannot remain in the base." Shanta personally helped Fang Zhao put on the epaulet. "Strive hard. Perhaps your rank might rise by the time you are discharged."
Shanta's words did not carry the tone of a leader but rather one of a senior. This way, their relationship seemed closer. Originally, Shanta had decided to urge Fang Zhao on with a few meaningful and heartfelt words. He raised his hand and wanted to pat Fang Zhao on the shoulder to show some encouragement, but when his eyes met Fang Zhao's calm eyes, he could not bring himself to go on. His raised hands paused in the air before returning to his side. Finally, he choked out a sentence. "Young man, have more vigor. Don't be too gloomy."
"Understood." Fang Zhao saluted and left Shanta's office.
Shanta watched the door as it closed and thought about that weird feeling he'd had. Why had it seemed like there had been a little something missing. What exactly was it?
Could it be that he had been so busy with official duties that it had affected his body's condition?
But Shanta did not have long to ponder, as he received a call.
"I heard that another inspection team is heading over?" the person at the other end asked with a laugh.
Shanta groaned coldly. "Inspection team? I didn't agree to it and yet they still can force their way?"
In the past, they had inspected others, but now they were the ones being inspected.
With too many matters to handle, Shanta did not think any further about that uncomfortable feeling a while back.
Elsewhere, Fang Zhao returned to his dormitory in the base after leaving Shanta's office and opened a different case.
The other case was similar to the one he had received. Inside was the gun he had received from Great-Grandfather Fang. Shanta had returned it to him.
Fang Zhao wrapped up the case for the military medal and the gun case, wrote down an address, and attached Shanta's clearance before handing it over to the specialized people in charge of the base's postage system.
Any packages to and from the base required stringent checks. Without clearance, firearms could not be sent out.
The address written on it was Yanzhou's Yanbei City Retirement Facility. That gun could no longer be used here, so he was mailing it back to Great-Grandfather Fang. The merit medal was mailed as well. The two old folks would really love this.
When Fang Zhao returned to Outpost 23, Kevin Lin was in the middle of a live broadcast.
Fan Lin and the others were repairing the experimental plots. During this surprise attack, many of the arrow sunflowers that had sprouted had died, but there were still some that had survived by luck. Recently, Fan Lin had led people to try and save the experimental sprouts that had not yet "stopped breathing."
Without Fang Zhao around, Kevin Lin had to personally work the fields. Given his constitution, he was panting and gasping for air after a little while. Spotting Fang Zhao returning was like catching sight of his savior. "Fang Zhao you have returned... Ha!"
Kevin Lin had good eyes and had noticed the rank on Fang Zhao shoulders. When Fang Zhao came closer and Kevin Lin could see it clearly, he did not say more and simply adjusted the camera to face Fang Zhao so even more people could clearly see the epaulet.
Many online audiences did not understand military ranks, but among them, there were still some who recognized it. After that, the comments section exploded.
"What the f*ck! Are my eyes playing tricks on me!"
"The rank on Fang Zhao's shoulder, someone tell me I'm not seeing things!"
"I just double checked, and it is indeed a second lieutenant rank, without a doubt!"
"Second lieutenant is quite low, but it is considered an officer rank, right?"
"The question is how long has he been in service. Has it even been a month? And he has risen through the ranks!?"
"There is this sort of thing... for military service?"